In the battle to produce a first-year festival, the only thing stronger than hardcore dedication of its organizers is post-hardcore dedication of the fans who continue to support their favorite genre. The music that defined the bleeding edge of underground rock culture in the early to mid-2000s has always been about exerting maximum effort to achieve a unified goal–typically a mosh pit, or in the case of Swanfest, many mosh pits throughout an entire day of throat-shredding, guitar-wielding, drum-bashing bliss.
This is the type of fury and fun inspired Will Swan–the long standing founder of revered, Sacramento-based post-hardcore/ experimental band Dance Gavin Dance–to try his hand at the festival game. This Saturday March 30 marks the inaugural Swanfest and also the first outdoor festival at the City National Grove of Anaheim which is centered purely around the power of post-hardcore and the potency of a scene that refuses to quit.
“It was a big undertaking putting something like this on but we felt that there’s definitely a shortage of festivals representing bands like ours and our scene so it was important to get one together,” Swan says. In conjunction with Rise Records (and his own label Blue Swan Records), the stoic shredder known for being the primary source of DGD’s relentless creativity is proud to finally create a festival centered around bands he’s either toured with, produced, signed or had long standing relationships with over DGD’s nearly 15 year career. “As a band that’s fortunate to have gotten big enough to be able to shoulder something like this, we look at it as an opportunity to also pull up other great bands that we’ve known for a long time,” Swan says.
As headliners of the event, Swanfest also serves as the kickoff for the headlining band’s upcoming US outing, dubbed “The Artificial Selection Tour.” The undercard includes performances from Periphery, Crown the Empire, Don Broco, Veil of Maya, as well as Blue Swan signees Sianvar, Eidola, and Wolf & Bear.
Part of the appeal of Swanfest is that it also caters to an even more underserved contingent of the post-hardcore, melodic metal and math rock scene that has a lot of savage instrumental bands like Salinas-based power trio Strawberry Girls.
“There’s definitely still a lot of kids that grew up listening to melodic hardcore or the style of music we do which blurs a lot of lines that are now adults but still will always have the desire to hear something that takes them to another place musically,” Swan says.
Upping the ante in terms of song structures and video concepts was always DGD’s strong suit, as evidenced by epic albums like Downtown Battle Mountain I & II, Happiness, Acceptance Speech and their most recent effort Artificial Selection in 2018 show the depth and commitment to the style they’ve created in the midst of several major lineup changes over the years (Swan and drummer Matt Mingus are the band’s only constant members since the beginning).
“We’ve definitely gone through a lot of lineup changes but one thing we take pride in is continuing to push ourselves creatively as a band and as people to come up with stuff that will be interesting and exciting to our fans,” Swan says. “We’re very cognizant of that when it comes to giving our fans the best experience possible.”
Having recently spent time in Hawaii, working on music and playing shows, Swan hints at more great sounds yet to come from DGD. Recently, the band released a video for the stand-alone single “Head Hunter” that reminds us that the band can still crank out bangers at will.
“I’m always excited to get in the studio and continuing to create new music,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of good stuff coming up this year that will show I think and even more developed sense of maturity to our sound, but most importantly it’s about having fun with it. Having the financial freedom to focus on music is also a big contributor to that.”
As for this weekend’s festivities, taking on the task of festival organizer has been one of the most challenging tasks of Swan’s career, testing his patience, his ability to problem solve and overall show his fans the same diehard commitment they show to his band.
“We really couldn’t be more appreciative of all the support from fans who’ve grown with us and who’ve stayed dedicated to this music over the years,” Swan says to his OC fan base and those driving and flying in from all over to rage in the pit. “This festival is for you and we hope you enjoy it and continue to find new things within the music and any new bands that come up. We’re happy to be a part of that process.”
Swanfest featuring Dance Gavin Dance, Periphery, Crown the Empire, We Came as Romans, Don Braco and more at the City National Grove of Anaheim, Saturday, March 30. For tickets, lineup and details, click here.